Ghosts in the Machine: the Autobiography of Pronoun

Poet Joan Houlihan delineates the use of pronouns in her work and selections by other poets

As part of her one-week residency at Northampton’s Smith College, Joan Houlihan delivered a craft lecture about the use of pronouns in poetry, including selections read from her books Ay and The Us. Houlihan reads several selections from other poets as well, which can be found in this PDF: Houlihan Poems. Please note that “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is discussed but not included in the packet.

*Audio was omitted due to recording interferences at two instances. The first of which occurs at 25:00, when an audience member asks, “When you started this book, I’m assuming when you first started you were just writing poems and didn’t have this framework to begin with and eventually you wrote another poem and another poem and said, ‘Okay, I can put this in.’ Did you start with more typical grammatical “I” forms and then play with it almost like you did in what you read here?”

The second occurs at 30:05, when Houlihan says, “That part not so much, that was there, but the part that I went back over a lot was the grammar of it because I changed that and changed syntax and I wanted to make sure it was consistent. Not correct, but consistent. So I did go back and revision and go through that.”

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